Monday, December 06, 2004

MacGuyver lied to me

I was just reading the following items from an article by Michael Crichton. It was in Parade magazine. What? Everyone needs something to read in the bathroom.

Anyway, he talked about all the great scientific calamities we are supposed to be facing right about now: global warming, overpopulation, etc. Killer bees and cell phone cancer and all that other stuff that makes good news but bad science.

But that's not important. What's important is that I have lost my faith in the science of "MacGyver".

The episode in question is, according to the MacGyver entry on, is...well, I can't seem to find the episode. In it, anyway, MacGyver ends up defending a South American plantation from an army of deadly ants that consumes everything in its path.

Some time after seeing this episode, I watched a documentary on the Science channel about killer ants. I learned this: killer ants are a myth.

Well, mostly. There's a big ant in Australia that certain people are fatally allergic to. And there's another type of ant in Africa that DOES have a reputation for mowing down everything in its path and consuming it, though they mostly eradicate garden pests and other vermin and occasionally domestic animals that are locked in small cages and can't get away. They could and would kill humans if humans didn't usually jump up, brush them off, and flee the area.

But the South American killer army ant is a myth. Scavenging army ants are even a welcome sight, because they, like the African ants, kill pests. They have trouble killing anything larger than a small, exceptionally unlucky lizard, however. They may inflict painful bites and cause swelling, but for the most part they are after things their mandibles can easily tear apart.

My first reaction was, of course, "You lie, Science Channel! MacGyver had to use science and engineering in order to defend himself and his friends from the devastating army of South American ants! They killed one of his close friends! It was on TV!"

Then, days later, or maybe even just now, I realized that MacGyver had lied to me. TV shows do not always use real science, it seems. Even TV shows in which the premise is "Science has real world applications that can save your life."

In other news, I'm almost finished reading the Superosity archives, so I'll probably talk about that later. Cheers!


At 11:13 AM, Blogger Spill The Beans said...

So, what did you think of Crighton's article? My husband had tossed it in the recycling bin, where it landed on the top and caught my eye as I was leaving for work so I rescued it, and have it on top of a pile of crap on my desk in hopes that I'll remember to read it at some point.

I may also post it to some internet board frequented by nature-nazis just to piss them off.

THAT would be out of character, don't you think?

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Arthur Mundane said...

Eh, I was pretty indifferent to it. I just found it sort of amusing because I hate alarmist science reports and enjoy finding out that popularly held "scientific truths" based on "studies" are in fact myths based on bad science, if not straight bunkum.

Don't go goading folks with it, though. You may find out that many of those you would bait are privy to the same facts and are well-informed. That would be disappointing. I prefer to fold such knowledge up, so that I can swat people with it, crying, "You FOOL!"


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